If you own or manage a cold storage warehouse, it’s important that you follow key steps and best practices to maintain the integrity of your space and keep inventory protected. Understanding some of the different elements and nuances of cold storage can ensure you maximize both the quality of your products and materials as well as your cost efficiency.
Here are several practical but important tips:
Clean the condenser unit
Debris will accumulate in the fan and condenser of cooling equipment over time. You might not notice it right away, but it will eventually hinder performance and force the system to work harder than it should.
Thankfully, you can prevent this issue altogether by cleaning the unit on a regular basis. It’s recommended that you give it a light cleaning at least once per month. (On a related note, you should also occasionally check your evaporator coils to ensure they’re clean and free of debris and other restrictions that have the potential to affect airflow.)
Keep your building in tip-top shape
It’s not just about keeping the cooling system properly maintained. You also have to pay attention to the energy efficiency of your building. If your building isn’t as efficient as it should be, cool air will escape and put added pressure on your condenser unit to maintain the desired control.
Pay especially close attention to your ceiling, roofing, and insulation. It’s common for cold air to escape through gaps and cracks. (It’s also possible that warm outside air is seeping in.)
As far as wall insulation goes, use warehouse wall panels that are specifically designed for refrigerated environments. This will keep your warehouse cost effective, energy efficient, and sanitary.
Be smart with lighting
Walk around your house or office and look for a floodlight. Now place your hand three to four inches in front of the light. Notice how much heat it puts off. Now imagine what having dozens of these in your refrigerated warehouse does. It’s like having a 24/7 heat source in your refrigerator – not good!
You can dramatically lower your cooling costs by switching from floodlights that use nearly 400 watts to LED lights that average just 120 to 150 watts. You’ll notice the difference in your energy bill almost immediately.
Inspect door seals
Door seals are designed to protect those small gaps that exist around the edges of your refrigeration doors. They keep cold air in and warm air out. Unfortunately, the material used to make these door seals doesn’t last forever. Over time, it deteriorates. This can lead to rips, tears, and sagging material that no longer creates a firm seal.
Inspect door seals at least once per month. For best results, visually inspect the seals as you run your fingers along all edges. This will give you an idea of the condition. It’s best to replace your door seals before they get too worn. Adding this to a regular preventive maintenance schedule will help you avoid any major issues down the road.
Use a good barcode system
One of the biggest inefficiencies with refrigerated warehouse systems is the constant opening and closing of doors. Some of this opening and closing – which lets cold air out and forces the system to work extra hard – can be prevented with a simple barcode system.
When you have a good barcode system as part of your inventory management system, it gives you laser-focused insights into your current inventory levels and (just as importantly) the location of these items. This prevents the need to open the refrigeration system just to find an item. If it’s not there, you can place an order. If it is there, you know exactly where to find it.
Provide the right PPE
It’s easy to get so caught up in energy efficiency and system optimization that we forget about employee comfort. But, remember, we’re working in sub-freezing temperatures here! Employees who are cold are less productive and efficient. Those who are comfortable are more likely to excel in their positions.
One simple thing you can do is provide employees with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) options. This may include coats, insulated pants, hats, gloves, and other equipment to stay warm.
Never Stop Improving
Technology changes, energy best practices evolve, and what works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. With this in mind, focus on constant and never ending improvement. This is the only way to keep your warehouse efficient and productive for years to come!
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